Guide to the Papers of Fela Sowande, 1932 - 1978Manuscript MS-78


Fela Sowande (Olufela Obafunmilayo Sowande) wad born in Nigeria in 1905. In 1934, he went to London to study European classical and popular music. In 1936, Sowande was solo pianist in a performance of George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue." He also played as duo-pianist with Fats Waller, and was theatre organist for the BBC as organist and Choirmaster at Kingsway Hall, London and as pianist in the 1936 production of "Blackbirds." He also played organ in some recordings by Dame Vera Lynn. Later, he studied organ privately under Edmund Rubbra, George Oldroyd, and George Cunningham and became a fellow of the Royal College of Organist in 1943. Sowande also won several prizes and obtained a Bachelor of Music degree at the University of London and became a fellow of Trinity College of Music. During World War II he worked as musical advisor for the Colonial Film Unit of the Ministry of Information, providing background music for educational films. From 1945-1952, Sowande was an organist and choirmaster at the West London Mission of the Methodist Church. Western and African ideas prevail in his music. Sowande's orchestral works include "Six Sketches for Full Orchestra," "A Folk Symphony," and "African Suite for string orchestra," and show African rhythmic and harmonic characteristics. He died in 1987 in Ohio.

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